Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam has told China's Xinhua state news agency that there was "a clear similarity between our crash and the Lion Air crash."
It's "a very difficult situation. It looks like the Lion Air, because that flight only lasted for six minutes," the official said, pointing to the pilot's reported difficulty controlling the plane and request to return to Addis Ababa's Bole International Airport.
"There is the voice part on one hand and there is also data part on the other hand," the official explained.
Gebremariam confirmed that Ethiopian officials were working with French investigators in studying the black boxes, adding that representatives from the US National Transportation Safety Board were also cooperating with their Ethiopian counterparts on the investigation. "They are both in Paris, accompanied by FAA and Boeing experts, Ethiopian airlines' experts," he said.
Boeing suspended the delivery of its 737 MAX planes to customers on Thursday after airlines around the world grounded their fleets and authorities banned the planes from operating in their airspace over safety concerns.
The Ethiopian crash is the second fatal incident involving the new narrow-body passenger aircraft in less than five months. In October 2018, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 operated by Indonesia's Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea soon after take-off, killing all 189 passengers and crew on board.
Boeing has promised to cooperate with investigators to the fullest possible extent and to release software updates for its troubled plane by next month.